There is an acute shortage of water in Udayapur-gadhi, a popular destination of historical importance in eastern Nepal (Gadhi in Nepali means a fort). King Uday Chandra of the Sen dynasty used to rule from this fort in the late 15th century. Even though the government has invested in infrastructure to attract tourists, lack of water has affected their stay in the area.
“Water is a basic need. How can we expect the tourists to stay if we cannot even give them enough water?” asks Bodhkumar Ghimire, a local. “Some tourists come here despite the problem, but they do not stay long.” Man Bahadur Magar, chair of the rural municipality, says the federal government has allocated a budget of Rs 10 million to develop Udayapur-gadhi as a tourist destination.
Rs 5 million has already been spent on the preservation of the dilapidated fortress. The remaining budget will be spent on infrastructure construction to attract tourists, says Magar. He, however, laments the lack of provision for drinking water. With the available budget, it is not possible to bring in water from a river that is 13 km away, says Magar.
Hooked on tankers
Kumar Rokka, another local, says some residents meet their needs by buying water. They pay Rs 4,000 for 4,000 liters of water that a tanker brings in. Usually, hotel operators and businesses make use of the tanker service, says another local Gopal Khatri. Ordinary people have to go to Jogi Dhara and Kopche Dhara, which are 2 km away, to fetch water, adds Rokka.
The water shortage has also affected homestay businesses, which have been in operation for about five years. Then District Development Committee (DDC) and the Tourism Board had launched a homestay program to provide accommodation services to domestic and foreign tourists and to encourage local women to engage in entrepreneurial activities.
After a flood swept away a water source on July 13, the locals get tap water only once a week. “It is hard to run homestays due to problems in water management,” says Indra Kumari Rai, President of the Panchawati Community Homestay Committee. “The situation is so bad we cannot even offer drinking water to our guests. The condition of washrooms is worse. As a result, tourists who come to stay for a week leave after two days,” laments Rai.
“Different projects have to be turned down just because of the dearth of water,” says the committee secretary Rita Kumari Dhamala. “The DDC first took us on observation trips to homestays in other areas, and we were inspired to start the business here. Unfortunately, we have reached a point where we have to close down.”
Udayapur-gadhi has about 50 houses and a population of around 1,000. Although the government introduced a multi-year project six years ago to solve the water problem, locals say it has been ineffective. Rs 10.54 million was allocated for this project, but it did not work as the fund was released in annual installments. Rs 2 million was issued in the first year, Rs 5 million in the second year, and Rs 6.31 million in the third year.
Due to the small size of the annual budget, water pipes and tanks are being worn out. “Even though we got the pipes, we could not lay them as we did not have money for digging,” says Dipak Rokka, another local.